DATCP: State ag board unanimously approves livestock siting rule

Hailed as the most important ‘right to farm’ protection in a decade

Contact: Robin Engel 608-224-5002

MADISON — In a historic move the state Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Board unanimously approved on Wednesday what is being called the most important right to farm legislation in a decade. Approval of ATCP 51, the Livestock Siting Rule, represents a 30-month public process to find common ground between farmers, environmentalists and local communities seeking to end battles over siting new or expanding livestock operations.

“This is a win-win for both farmers and rural communities,” said Governor Jim Doyle. “This is a huge step forward for the success of growing Wisconsin’s dairy and livestock industry and helping local communities plan for economic growth. I want to thank everyone who has worked on this ground-breaking reform.”

The rule establishes statewide standards for siting new or expanding livestock facilities. Bankers, farmers and representatives of local government testifying at Wednesday’s board meeting spoke in support of the rule, saying it provides predictability for lenders and farmers and a mechanism to help communities plan for orderly growth. Kudos were also given to the bill’s author, Representative David Ward (R-Fort Atkinson).

“It’s a great day for agriculture in the state of Wisconsin,” said Mike Myers, vice president of First National Bank of Platteville and chairman of the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s Agriculture Bankers section.

Livestock organizations, including the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, the Dairy Business Association and the Wisconsin Cattleman’s Association, also endorsed the new rules, despite earlier opposition. “It’s time to move the rule forward,” said Laurie Fischer, executive director of the DBA.

“The rules will help communities reduce conflict and plan for growth,” said Richard Stadelman, executive director of the Wisconsin Towns Association.

“I believe these rules will prevent others from going through the nightmare we have gone through,” said Ed Larson, citing on-going legal and emotional costs in a yet unresolved effort to expand his dairy in Rock County.

In order for a community to take advantage of the rule, however, it must have agricultural zoning. The rule generally applies only to operations with 500 or more animals.

The permit application has five components:

o an animal unit calculation
o a plan for odor management
o a plan for nutrient management
o a plan to control runoff
o a plan for waste storage

If the farmer meets the requirements, he gets the permit. It protects his farm from encroachment by urban development virtually as long as he or his descendents or those who buy the land keep farming.

“I think the most important part of this rule at this point is going to be that it greatly strengthens the right to farm in the state of Wisconsin and it does that because it establishes an opportunity to manage encroachment,” said Mike Dummer, a farmer and chair of the DATCP Board.

The measure will now be sent back to the Legislature. A final hearing in the Assembly Agriculture Committee is expected February 16th and officials are hopeful the rule will become law by the end of the month.

“We’re very optimistic and confident about this rule because it has had such a wide spectrum of stake holder input. Farmers have had their say as have conservation organizations and local government,” said DATCP Secretary Rod Nilsestuen.